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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Real Impact of Richt's New Role

The least surprising thing that's happened today has been the reaction of fans to Mark Richt's announcement that he's spending more time in the offensive meetings this year than he had in years past.

On one hand, you have the folks, like Senator Blutarsky, who see this as sort of a tacit endorsement of the work Todd Grantham is doing. Richt says one of the jobs he's no longer doing is sitting in on defensive meetings, so perhaps he's simply a bit more comfortable with what Grantham is doing than he had been in years past.

"The head coach has decided he can afford to spend less time being involved with the defense that’s being coached by three newcomers, including a new coordinator who’s installing a scheme that’s a fairly radical departure from what he’s had in place since coming to Athens than he did with a bunch that for the most part had been with him from the inception running a scheme that had been in place since 2001. Hmmm. Why do you think that’s the case?"

On the other hand, I've gotten a handful of comments like this one, from JRL:

"Maybe I'm reading too much into this but I see a subtle message directed at Bobo. Get better or...

I think as painful as it was to fire Willie Richt likes the results so far.

Part of the growing process of becoming a better head coach. The next firing will be much easier and won't take 2 or 3 years of hand wringing."

Sitting in the media workroom after talking with Richt yesterday, a few of us discussed what the fallout would be from these quotes. The two obvious answers were that fans would look at it as an endorsement of Grantham and/or a warning shot to Mike Bobo. Not surprisingly, that's been the response.

But how much truth is there to either of these sentiments?

On the defensive front, I think it's probably a bit overstated. I do think that Richt hired Grantham for a reason -- because he believes in Grantham and trusts his ability to handle his job without a ton of oversight. And when you figure that Georgia is paying Grantham $750k a year, you'd hope that's the case.

So it makes some sense that Richt would be taking a more hands-off approach. Richt has to know that Grantham understands the defense much better than he does, so why waste his time second-guessing the new guy? Richt is still meeting with defensive coaches after practices and scrimmages, but sitting in the meetings where Richt would likely be as lost -- or moreso -- than any of the players is probably not an effective use of his time.

On the offensive side, I can completely understand why this is seen as an indictment of Bobo. In fact, Richt has to know that, too. And part of me believes that he wouldn't have made this information public without being aware of some of the ramifications it would have for the perception of Bobo by fans.

But I'm also inclined to take what Richt says on the subject at face value: "I told Mike, I’m not in there to make him crazy at all, but I’m in there because I do miss it, number 1, but I want to be able to add as much value as I can as we go,” he said.

Richt said he has not missed a single offensive team meeting or individual quarterback meeting this spring, and that will continue into the season. From what he says, he's not running the meetings, but he's getting a firsthand feel for how the meetings are run and how the players respond. He's closer to the action now, and it really sounded to me more like that's what it was about for Richt. He missed being there.

If anything, I tend to like what this one anonymous commenter offered as an explanation:

"I think this move is a pre-emptive effort to help Bobo so he doesn't have to fire him like he did Willie."

That's a good point, because while Willie Martinez was a peer for Richt, Bobo is more of a protoge who learned his craft from Richt. That's a different type of relationship, and while Bobo has had his moments of exceptional play calling, he also might not be done learning.

So as a whole, while the comments regarding Bobo and Grantham may have some merit, I'm not sure they're the most important things to take from this story.

I think the most intriguing part of all this was how Richt -- without provocation from us in the media -- tied so much of it back to his days at Florida State.

I've said several times over the past few years that you could watch Richt at practice or around his players and almost envision a young Bobby Bowden. In many ways, that's a very good thing.

Of course, I covered Florida State a bit earlier in my career, and Bowden wasn't just playing the role of CEO of the team. He really was detached -- and to this day I'm convinced that was part of the problem the Noles have had over the past few years.

For Richt, that detachment was a good thing during his days at FSU. It allowed him to grow as a play caller and coach. But not everyone learns and thrives that way. And while Bowden had plenty of success during the 1990s, the best coaches today aren't the ones who let their assistants handle the day-to-day. They're the ones who are forced to take a medical leave because they're so stressed about football. They're the ones who value the process above all else.

On a personal level, I hope Richt never goes quite that far. But I do think this announcement from Richt says something important. It says that Richt has made a decision about what kind of coach he wants to be, and that doesn't mean simply following in the footsteps of his mentor.

This last offseason was the first time Richt had to step outside of his comfort zone in terms of dictating his legacy as a coach. It was painful for him, I have no doubt.

But I think he's learned a lot from the experience, and this is another step toward creating a different identity than the one he'd been working on for the first nine years of his career at Georgia.

Whether it has any real impact, I don't know. But for a coach accused so many times of being too stubborn in his approach, fans should take a big sigh of relief to see Richt so interested in a new approach.


jlove said...

ive never once doubted Richt. I fully trust the man and you can always tell when he takes a game into his own hands.

id love to see more of that this coming season.

BulldogBry said...

Sometimes, we as Dawg fans remind me of the townspeople in "Hoosiers" - you know the ones who were insistent on watching practice, second-guessing everything, stating the obvious and generally getting in the way. I guess fans will always disect every single quote from every player and coach (and even the AD) and do it until we turn it into something wonderful or something evil (depending on your stance).

It wears on me, it really does.

Dawgheart said...

Is it possible that the reason CMR was more involved with the D the last couple of years was due more to the reportedly dysfunctional nature of the D staff? Aside providing technical input to the D staff, he may have felt his presence was required to ensure that group maintained a level of cooperation.

Now that Grantham has clearly established himself as the unquestioned head of the D staff, perhaps CMR is now more concerned with the overall functioning of the O staff. Again, reports have suggested that this has largely been the Bobo-Searels show, with the other guys taking secondary roles. Maybe CMR would like to improve that aspect of the O staff, along with providing input on the issue of QB development/selection, game planning, etc.

Just idle speculation, but I do wonder.

meat said...

I was doing the Red and Black crossword while reading this blog while not studying for my test tomorrow and one of the answers was Hale. The definition is healthy. For whatever that's worth.

wondering said...

well if he was spending more time on the def side of the ball during practice, it seems to me that if he was as good a coach as i hope he is that we wouldn't have had that much decline. he was there. he should have seen the problems and addressed them. i'm not a hater by any means, that's just what jumped out at me.

Anonymous said...

Richt has one of the greatest minds in college football today. He should be in on every offensive meeting no matter who the OC is. He adds valuable perception.

If Willie had been doing his job the last 2 years, I suspect CMR would have had more time to spend with the offense rather than trying to evaluate and clean up Willie's debacle.


UGA69Dawg said...

At the risk of beating a dead horse, Coach Richt has been OJTing this Head Coaching job for 9 years now. He has done great things during that time but it has been in stages. His first few years he modeled our program on the only school he ever really coached for FSU. He was emulating the Bobby Bowden era when Bobby was calling the O. He had his Mick Andrews in Brian Van Gorder and it worked. Unfortunately really good DC's get better jobs and instead of looking for a really good DC he promoted from within. He also felt good about Bobo so he felt he should step up to the CEO position and let his coaches coach. Well that didn't go quite like he planned, the DC either couldn't or wouldn't step up to the job. So now he is readjusting his involvement. He has hired a professional defensive coach to handle his D, and he wants to get his hands dirty again in the area he knows best the O. I'm all for it, he tried the CEO detached HC thing and it was not working. He will be wearing the headphones and hopefully keeping Bobo's evil twin in check this year. Now maybe we will attack the defense's weakness instead of trying to run a balanced offense even when we could be just kicking the living S out of the opposing D.

Kathleen said...

Too bad you're poo-pooing the intern. It could have been great filler material between G-Day and August.... You could have made the potential interns compete and we could have voted for winners on the blog. It would have been fun for all of us!!!

Anonymous said...

BulldogBry I couldn't agree with you more. We're going to parse every single word that comes out the coaches and players mouths to death looking for some deeper meaning. In a way, its understandable given the way we've struggled recently by my gosh some of us Dawgs are REALLY annoying.

Anonymous said...

The reason why Coach Richt was not a successful CEO is that his coaching staff on both sides of the ball and on special teams, especially the offense, were not very good at all.

This too, is the problem that Florida State has had. Bobby Bowden lost his coaches whom he let run his program. For example, if you look at the Florida State Quarterbacks from 20 December 2000 when Coach Richt took this offer from Vince Dooley, they have not had 1. What made them tick, came here.

Now, we have failed to prepare a single quarterback for 2006, 2009 and now 2010. Not only losing 10 of the last 20 within our own division of our conference, the most compelling point about our offense these last 4 years is not only the # 96 average NCAA Rank in Penalties, not only the 21 fumbles per year average the last 4 years, and not only the 14 interceptions thrown per year the last 4 years - the most compelling point about our offense is that in this state with all these All-Star Offensive Players, we signed none of them.

When the kids lose confidence in an offensive coaching staff, the CEO has to fire them.

He made a serious error not doing so last year. Coach Richt, of course, desperately needs to sit in on the defensive coaches' decision process too with those players whom the offensive coaching staff could not teach enough to make them effective on that side of the ball, so we had to move them to Defense, who obviously can teach them to play this game. The guy who should have been playing Quarterback last year and was redshirted instead added to the list of now 89 arrested / suspended in the 9-Year Coach Richt Era here. We’ve not been very good the last 4 years, not with 1-3 vs the vols and 1-3 vs Florida in our own division of our own conference. We officially are in decline.

When we failed to get the Offensive High School All-Stars in this state and let them to go to all the other teams who have been beating us, Coach Richt's hand was forced.

Either do what he promised us he would do that following Thursday after taking the job at 2 am back 20 December 2000, or fire them, or both.

What Coach Richt promised when we hired him was that he was going to coach the quarterbacks and call the plays.

Of course, the whole entire Offensive Coaching Staff should have been fired too.

Now, we have questions about Coach Richt's ability to do all his CEO responsibilities along with doing all the responsibilities of an Offensive Coaching Staff, who just doesn't get it. We will see signing day next year if Coach Richt turns this around and convinces the kids in this state that we do have an Offense, will teach them, and will improve them as players on Offense.

There is no question we are doing that on Defense. But, Coach Richt did not want to replace them, either.

Anonymous said...

And, the decisions of Coach Richt’s former Offensive Coordinator who was arrested for a DUI, Neil Callaway, and now Mike Bobo even on what player is the starter and which is not the starter have left it obvious to the kids who play the game that we don’t know what we are doing on offense. Redshirting Knowshon Moreno so we only got to see him only 2 years, the best running back here in 30 years. Trying to redshirt Washaun Ealey until the 3rd quarter of the 5th game when he was the 11th best running back in the nation and our Leading Rusher, yet only started 2 games last year and not even the last 2. Starting Aron White who had 3 catches his freshman year and then taking until the 12th game of the 13-game season last year to figure it out that Orson Charles is Pro Bowl NFL with 23 catches his freshman year by direct contrast and that Orson Charles should be the starter. Taking credit for teaching AJ Green to play receiver when he too will be Pro Bowl NFL, yet unable to do more than throw just only 2 passes to Marlon Brown. Telling Logan Gray after 4 years now in this program that he should move to wide receiver, only to have him say no thanks and then Logan runs to the press and airs it out in public that Logan criticizes this very offensive coaching staff for not giving him a chance to be the quarterback last year. Picking Joe Tereshinski III over Matthew Stafford as the Starter for 2006, and in fact having Joe Cox ahead of Matthew Stafford too. Making Richard Samuel the starting tailback after he lost us the Georgia tek game with his fumble on our goal line, losing the game for us, and now telling him he is not even good enough to ever play offense again, so that now in his Junior Year, we have to Redshirt Him Too, so that we can teach him to play defense. When we couldn’t get a running game going last year with Richard Samuel and excuses full Caleb King, the kids in this state expected us to run the ball with Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier instead Chapas got all of 10 carries on the entire season and Munzenmaier got all of 7 carries the entire season. Brandon Boykin is the hardest to tackle player on the team, did the Offensive Coaching Staff consider giving him the ball some ? They never even thought about it.

8th in The SEC in Passing in 2007 with Mike Bobo having Matthew Stafford for God’s Sake. That’s 84th in the nation NCAA Ranking Passing 2007 with Matthew Stafford, the # 1 overall draft pick by the NFL. Maybe you remember this year, we lost to South Carolina who did not even play in a bowl game with 6 losses and to the vols who lost 4 games. We were out of any contention for any type of championship even of our division before the season even really got going. # 74 Total Offense in the NCAA 2007.

56th in the nation Rushing in 2008 with Knowshon Moreno. That is what Mike Bobo did. We were ranked consensus # 1 in the nation and got blown out 31 to nothing by Alabama at half time, 42 consecutive points by Florida and 29 consecutive points by Georgia tek who obviously never is a ranked team 2008 without the loss by us to Georgia tek. This was our worst year ever in football. Knowshon Moreno averaged 14 carries per game in those 3 DEVASTATING LOSSES.

2006 we went 9-4.

2009 we go 8-5.

We have lost 14 games the last 4 years, 10 within our own division.

Obviously, according to the recruits we are not making good decisions on Offense.


2 passes.

We threw 2 passes all season long last year to Branden Smith ?

Hell, he is being listed on national sites as one of 10 Player of The Year Players in The SEC this coming season.

2 passes ?

I am fed up with this offense, and Coach Richt is too, along with every offensive all-star in this state of Georgia, none of whom did we sign this year because of all this B.S. Oh, are we talking about it ? Excuse me. Why don't we stick our heads in the sand, and act like Bluto says, and ignore it ? It will go away, right ? Not important.

Anonymous said...

Cortney Newmans (TB, Jr., Mount de Sales)

Nice, a Macon GISA representative is in there. Don't see that too often other than Michael Lemon (Stratford) and Justin Lyles (First Pres.) a few years back.